CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Ayo Dosunmu found one more way to get his 10-letter name in the Illinois basketball record books.
The junior preseason All-America selection became only the third Illinois player in school history to record a triple-double in a college basketball game and the school’s first one in nearly two decades.
In a 75-60 victory over No. 19 Wisconsin Saturday afternoon, Dosunmu had 21 points, 12 assists and 12 rebounds in a 35-minute effort that has to be classified as one of his best ever performances in an Illini jersey. The Chicago native was 6 of 12 from the field, 9 of 11 from the foul line eight of his 12 assists came in a second half.
Dosunmu joined Mark Smith (Feb. 1, 1979 vs. Minnesota) and Sergio McClain (Jan. 13, 2001 vs. Michigan) as the only player’s in Illinois basketball history to record the feat. According to the school’s record book, the Illini program began recording individual rebounds in 1959, assists in 1971 along with blocked shots and steals in 1978.
Dosunmu’s All-Big Ten teammate, Kofi Cockburn, said in his post-game media conference that Dosunmu told the entire team in the locker room Saturday morning before pre-game warmups that he would get a triple-double against the Badgers after watching this Wisconsin (14-6, 8-5 in Big Ten) team on film throughout the week in preparation for the 12th Big Ten Conference game.
“I was like ‘Yo, I’m about to get a triple-double today’ so yeah, I said it,” Dosunmu said. “I told (Trent Frazier) today to make shots and to be ready because I was about to go out and get a triple double and it happened.”
Cockburn retook the national lead in double-doubles this season with 23 points and 14 rebounds off of eight dunks against a veteran Badgers frontline of Micah Potter and Nate Reuvers. Cockburn has posted double-doubles in 10 of 12 league games and came into State Farm Center Saturday afternoon averaging 18.4 points and 11.0 rebounds during Big Ten play.
“His confidence has probably never been higher,” Illinois head coach Brad Underwood said about his 7-foot, 290-pound center. “We forget he’s a sophomore and he’s still relatively inexperienced at playing the game. He’s seen everything people could throw at him. It’s him but also as a collective unit, we’ve done a great job of finding him.”
Potter had a disappointing eight points on 4 of 12 shooting and 0 of 5 from the 3-point arc. The Badgers are 0-4 against Power Five Conference opponents this season when Potter, a 6-foot-10 senior center, is held under double figures.
“Potter hurt us in the game last year in Madison and 75 percent of his ball screens are pops and he’s an elite shooter,” Underwood said. “Kofi does a really good job and he’s a pretty imposing guy at 7 feet tall and 300 pounds when he closes out.”
For the first time in two years, Wisconsin senior guard Brad Davison was held scoreless as the player who is seventh in school history in field goals didn’t hit anything Saturday. Davison, while hounded by Illini senior guard Trent Frazier, finished 0 for 6 and 0 for 5 from 3-point range.
The Illini (13-5, 9-3 in Big Ten) got off to a quick 13-4 start by understanding Wisconsin had nobody on its roster to handle the home team’s 1-2 punch and arguably the best outside-inside combination in the Big Ten Conference. Dosunmu and Cockburn finished the game as the only two Illini players in double figures but Da’Monte Williams came off the bench with five points and nine rebounds in 22 minutes of action.
“These are the things I expect from (Ayo) already because I know the work he puts in and the work he’s done with me,” Cockburn said. “When I see him come out here and do this, I know it’s something he’s comfortable doing and confident in making that shot or making that pass that is needed. I’m always excited for him because now he’s one of my best friends.”
Illinois’ 15-point win ended a seven-game winning streak by the Badgers in Champaign as Wisconsin missed 20 of 24 attempts from 3-point range and only converted 12 points on the Illini’s 18 turnovers.
Illinois’ win allowed them to take hold of second place in the Big Ten Conference as they embark on a potential 10-day layoff following a postponement of their Feb. 11 road matchup at No. 4 Michigan due to the Wolverines COVID-19 pause. The next game on Illinois’ current schedule is a Feb. 16 home game against Northwestern.
After having a triple-double, Dosunmu was asked what his next goal was in his third year at Illinois and he referenced the goals he mentioned when he revealed he was skipping the 2020 NBA draft.
“The triple-double is a great accomplishment but my main goals are still ahead of me and that’s winning a Big Ten championship with my teammates and a national championship,” Dosunmu said. “Those are what I’ve wanted all season. I’m really excited and anxious to see that happen.”